Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Minister implicated in BTC corruption

The Botswana Telecommunications Corporation’s Board of Directors has approached the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) to institute criminal investigations against present and past senior executives at the state-owned corporation.

Sunday Standard can confirm that DCEC has already kick-started investigations that may lead to yet another one of Botswana’s high profile court cases.
This was after the Board received a spate of complaints from the public alleging corruption and collusion between the company’s management and some suppliers.

Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that the Board has also received results of a forensic audit, conducted by an international firm of auditors from outside Botswana that was hired to dissect the company’s procurement systems.

The clean-up campaign by the board started before the current Chief Executive, Thapelo Lippe, took over his position.

The Chairman of the BTC Board of Directors, Len Makwinja, confirmed that the audit report has been produced and said necessary actions will be taken based on the findings and recommendations of the report.
“I can tell you this is a very sensitive issue,” said Makwinja.
Makwinja said the Board commissioned the report after many complaints leveled at BTC.

“Many such complaints were made directly to the DCEC,” said Makwinja.
With a few senior managers already sacked, Sunday Standard can confirm that more heads are still to roll, with others likely to face criminal charges of fraud and corruption.
As late as this past week, disciplinary hearings against some senior officers had started.

It turns out that the BTC’s mobile wing, Be Mobile, has not been spared.
The audit report found that the contract for the company’s airtime scratch card was tainted as was that of the advertising campaign.

The multi-million Trans-Kalahari fiber optic contract has also come out badly.
Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that at least one cabinet minister has been implicated.

“It has been found that the recruitment of managers at BTC was not transparent. We are happy that at least on this one the DCEC seems eager to go out all the way,” said one person who sits on the BTC Board. “Of course, it is important that we are not perceived to be on a kind of crusade. But this is public money and, as directors, we have no option but to act,” he added.
One issue that is of concern to the BTC Board is that the corporation’s procurement system has lost all its integrity.

“We want all bidders to be assured of fairness. What has been happening all along was that the management would collude with well known business people to form companies that had no track record ahead of contracts being issued. Invariably, such new companies always emerged victorious,” said another source close to the Board.
“BTC has lost all sense of predictability. This operation is meant to restore a sense of morality,” he said.

For some time now, the storm has been brewing inside BTC, with allegations that some of the corporation’s executives had been paid kickbacks in return for issuing contracts growing shriller.

Faced with no option, the Board approached DCEC for assistance and launched a parallel forensic audit that is expected to add more impetus to DCEC investigations.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.